Gifted Children/Smart but slow


QUESTION: Hello.  We have a son 16 who was identified gifted early on.  He is on his third language but starting to struggle more with the speed and volume of the work at times now in the 2nd year of high school.  What is happening on his pre-calculus for example is he will get all the questions he answers correct but then just run out of time to complete the test.  He likes to be thorough. But his grade is beginning to suffer. I wondered if you had any suggestions for how to help him become more aware of the clock and how to complete things on a tighter time frame.

ANSWER: Hello.  I can share some thoughts with you, although the ideas don't have to do directly with time management.  Gifted kids are kids, before they are gifted kids. A gifted child can be and often is years ahead of calendar age intellectually, but a child's emotional development stays close to age.  It's called "asynchronous development", and it's one of the toughest parts of raising a gifted child.  Your son is emotionally, developmentally, in ways other than intellect, 16.  He has 16 year old boy developmental tasks taking place in the non-intellectual parts of his brain, his personality, body and emotions.  Parents of gifted kids can lose sight of that, they just seem so much older with their big vocabularies and "braininess." We forget how bizarre and beyond normal it is for a child to be learning a third language and doing pre-calculus at age 16, when a lot of kids still struggle in their native language.

Do you and your son have much time together - in recreation or one-on-one time, just being with each other in the same space?  Do you remember being 16 and no intellectual slouch yourself?  How easy was it to keep your mind on schoolwork?

I'm not minimizing the need for your son to be responsible about school. But that's just one of his growing up tasks right now.  The second year of high school can be terribly high pressure, especially when there's so much distracting competition for his attention.  Gifted kids can be brutal critics of themselves. Not completing his work can cause him to lose faith in himself.  What is good is to let him know that you believe in him unconditionally, you are proud of him no matter what his test scores, and ask him his thoughts about why time is getting away from him.  I'm not suggesting that a parent should be a "buddy," I don't believe in that.  What are his thoughts on how you can best be supportive of him managing his school work.  That way you're acknowledging and supporting him in seeing himself as the person who's in control of how he does, teaching him tips that may work for you, and supporting him in a mentor-type way.  Do your very best to be available to him and carve out some time for the two of you with just each other.  You'll notice that with that attention he becomes more effective in other parts of life as well.

"Free Spirit Publishing", has excellent resources to learn more about parenting and leading a gifted child through the later years approaching adulthood.

I know very little about your situation so I may be way off the mark. If so, please excuse me. Your feedback is important.  

I want to add a couple thoughts.  None of what I suggested should be taken as criticism of you or of the amount of time you spend with your son.  You deserve credit, and you have my respect for participating in your son's education. It tells me what a caring dad you are, that you invested your time. Not a lot of parents, especially dads, participate in their child's education "hands on."  or invest much time.  You set a good example for your son - intelligent, mature people admit they don't have all the answers and take action to get answers.

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your reply.  Some great thoughts.  And I will definitely check out  

I am certainly proud of his accomplishments and let him know.  And I give him a lot of leeway in how he studies and handles things.  Time has just become an issue in a few ways.  For example he is regularly up to midnight or 1am primarily to complete his AP Bio homework.  He takes great pride being in the (supposedly) most difficult class in the high school and puts in extra effort to keep that at an A.  But there is something pretty circuitous about his approach.  Balancing lassez-faire and adding pressure of pointing out things that need to be done is the trick.

He loves being in classes with the best and the brightest.  He seems to beam in those settings.  And I would love for him to continue to be able to have this kind of experience in college.  But as the grades start slipping down - some of the opportunities to be to get into the best schools could be compromised.  So the grade focus has to do with wanting him to continue to be in whatever the college equivilent of "AP" would be.  His uncle went to Cal Tech for example.  But can't have too many non-A's to get in there.  

That's a good idea to get out and do something fun together.  We have the San Jose Sharks hockey team that we have not seen since he was little.  That could be a fun thing to do together.  

Thank you for the reminder about possible inner critic in my teen.  And affirming belief in him despite scores is important.  I certainly think he will succeed - particularly here in Silicon Valley.  Lots of places for him to fit in here.

That is all for now - as it's gett late for me.  Thank you again for your ideas!


I do understand you wanting certain things, careers, college, achievement.  What I'm suggesting is that the grade itself is a learning tool.  The grade is an indicator.  You don't want to stop at just getting the grades back up. Without understanding why the grades are falling, it isn't possible to help with whatever the reason is for the falling, and the falling grades will persist. You can ask yourself WHY they are falling. It may be very simple like needing more sleep. That's a big problem for a lot of teens.  Is he eating well?  Does he just need to be better organized? Is his schedule over-busy?  Is it something more worrisome, like depression or anxiety?  Any problems with peers?  

Looking at reasons will put your son in a better position to succeed, learning about himself, strengths, stumbling blocks, keeping himself healthy, etc., more of the business of growing up.

There's a good book you can order for him from Amazon very inexpensively titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Stephen Covey.  You've probably heard of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" which was considered ground-breaking when it was first published and is still around.

I hope I explained that a little better.

Gifted Children

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Faith A. Coleman MD


No questions are off-limits. My strengths are understanding what questioners are really trying to ask, knowing the right questions to get to useful answers, and putting complicated, subject-specific words and concepts into language accessible to lay-persons. The topic is fascinating and can be surprising, the opposite of what might logically seem expected of giftedness. I am skilled in identifying giftedness at any age, including very early in life.


Children constitute about one-third of the patients in a Family Medicine practice. I was Director of Children's and Women's Public Health Education Programs with the Northeast Texas Public Health District. I have two highly gifted children, one of whom attended Roeper School, listed first in this site's Sponsored Links. I was the health expert for Roeper's board of directors; I maintain contacts there. I'm on the board of directors of several organizations of which I'm a member. I spent a summer as the Medical Director of a camp for kids with ADD, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders. Editor, Medical Economics Publishing Co. licensure to teach K-12 in Oklahoma, with added qualification in Journalism

Champions for Children: Advocacy, resources, quality assessment, for early childhood daycare (Board of Directors). American Academy of Family Physicians. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. READ: Advocacy, education, resources for teaching and encouraging literacy in adults. East Texas Network for Children (Planning Board).

Journals: Medical Economics, Contemporary OB/Gyn, Diagnostic Medicine. Albuquerque Journal Daily, Tyler Daily News, New Mexico Daily Lobo, New Citizen Weekly, Alpena News, daily.

BA, Journalism MD University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Internship, Detroit Medical Center. Family Practice Residency, Top-100 Hospital - Beaumont. Clinical Faculty appointments to three medical schools. Faculty, Family Practice Residency, Detroit area.

Awards and Honors
Two official commendations awarded by United States Army for service and contributions to young soldiers and families. Publishing Internship, Medical Economics Publishing Company. Research Internship, Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences. Woman Medical Student of the Year. Numerous others.

Past/Present Clients
As above in experiences, publications and awards. Many thousands of patient/family encounters.

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